Trade mark registration is an optional but effective tool when it comes to structuring your startup for success. Registering a trade mark for your startup protects your intellectual property (IP), giving you the exclusive right to use that mark in association with the goods and services you provide.

In this article, we look at three key reasons trade mark registration can be beneficial for your startup.

1. Business Name Registration vs Trade Mark Registration

When you first created your startup, you probably registered your business nameAlthough a business name is important, it does not provide you with an exclusive right to use that name. Business name registration only prevents other people from obtaining the same business name on the Australian Business Register.

By contrast, trade mark registration does provide you with an exclusive right to use the particular mark you have registered. This mark could be your business name or logo. Trade marks can even protect colours, sounds and scents.

Trade marks help you avoid your brand becoming diluted because of other businesses using similar marks. Registration gives you the right to:

  • ask a competitor to stop using the same or similar name to you; and
  • obtain an injunction to stop them using that name if needed.

In limited circumstances, you can still take action against another business even without a registered trade mark. You can do this if the other business is:

  • passing themselves off as your startup; or
  • misleading customers that their business is owned by you.

However, establishing misleading and deceptive conduct or ‘passing off‘ is considerably more difficult than establishing infringement of a trade mark.

Tip: When you register your trade mark, it will appear on IP Australia’s trade mark register. Therefore, when other businesses are branding themselves, they can see that your trade marks are protected and that they should choose names and logos which cannot be confused with your trade marks.

2. Brand Protection

When you introduce your products or services to the market, your brand is what the public will see first and remember. This is where a registered trade mark for your startup can protect your brand from copycats and knockoffs. 

Having a strong marketing and branding strategy is crucial to your startup’s long-term profitability, especially when it comes to:

  • growing your startup;
  • drawing new customers in;
  • capturing market share; and
  • keeping your business at the forefront in your particular industry.

If you do not have a registered trade mark for your startup, you run the risk of another business using the same name (or a deceptively similar name) for their brand. As a result, you may:

  • have to rebrand to avoid confusion; or
  • be deprived of some value of your marketing strategies, particularly if you are losing customers who are being funnelled to a competitor’s web page because they have a confusingly similar brand name.

3. Asset Protection and Monetisation

Your brand representations form part of your startup’s IP suite, so having a registered trade mark can be a valuable commercial asset. The representations of registered trade marks, such as the ™ and ® symbols, are familiar to the public and signal to other businesses that you are professional and take the protection of your IP seriously. 

Furthermore, if your startup will be looking for investors or sold in the future, trade mark registration increases the value and potential of your business. It lets investors and purchasers see that you take your brand reputation seriously and have the appropriate protections in place.

Note that if you have registered your trade mark, you can also monetise it. By licensing or assigning it to others, you can receive payment in exchange for the use of the trade mark.

Key Takeaways

For startups, building a great product is hard. But taking your product to market and building a strong reputation with customers can be even harder. Registering a trade mark for your startup is not required by law. But nearly all successful startups have registrations in place because they recognise the importance and value of protecting their brands.

If you are serious about your startup’s IP protection, get in touch with LegalVision’s trade mark lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

Sophie Mao
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